Sometimes I think that the amount of time you live on earth is just an inverse reflection of how good you were in a previous existence: for example, infants who die from SIDS were actually great people when they were alive “for real,” so they get to go to heaven after a mere five weeks in purgatory. Meanwhile, anyone Willard Scott ever congratulated for turning 102 was obviously a terrible individual who had many, many previous sins to pay for and had to spend a century in his or her unknown purgatory (even though the person seemed perfectly wholesome in this particular world).

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story by Chuck Klosterman

Everything runs backward now. Like matinée films sometimes, where people jump out of water onto diving boards. Come September you push down the windows you pushed up, take off the sneakers you put on, pull on the hard shoes you threw away last June. People run in the house now like birds jumping back inside clocks. One minute, porches loaded, everyone gabbing thirty to a dozen. Next minute, doors slam, talk stops, and leaves fall off trees like crazy.

— Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Torture the Artist by Joey Goebel | Poets & Writers

Torture the Artist by Joey Goebel

The following is an excerpt from Torture the Artist by Joey Goebel, published by MacAdam/Cage on October 27, 2004.



I am so sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you will never be happy.

I don’t mean to hurt you by saying that. I say it because I think it is only fair that I be honest with you before we begin. I hope you appreciate this because no one will be fair or honest with you from here on out. So again, I’m tellling you right now: You will never be
happy. I’ve put it in writing for you, and you’re very welcome.

I want you to go outside on the sunniest, sweatiest day of the year and quietly say it aloud. “I will never be happy.” Even in the heat, you should be able to see your own cold, smoky breath acknowledge the statement. The only way to avoid seeing your breath is to say it proudly like a wise man. “I will never be happy!” Try it sometime.

When I think of you, I think of a cartoon cloud hovering over your head, a private torrential downpour. I see you soaking wet, your entire being drooping, and you’re always sick because you can’t stay dry. Depressed by the bad weather, you cry yourself a little river, but the tears evaporate and form into another cloud that rains on you even more. You can’t win.

It will be sad. You will never get the girl. You will not save the world. You will never find true love. You will not find a trustworthy friend. You will never be satisfied. You will never have enough. The grass could always be greener. The grass will always need mowing. Your days will be long and contain no fun. Your nights will be lonely and not much else. You will always be waiting for better days that will never arrive. And you will most definitely never have peace of mind.

There will be days when you will collapse to your knees and screamingly plead your case to whatever might be listening. But The Thing Called God can’t help you, and It won’t. I think of heaven as being a radiant crystalline metropolis, and in the tallest sparkling skyscraper, The Mayor stays busy making deals behind a door with no knob. He’s forever inaccessible, not taking calls at this time. And then I envision all the perfect blond angels, devoid of genitalia and feet, congregating and pointing and laughing at all of us down here, saying “Those poor little things!” in between giggles. They will get a kick out of you.

We are more likely to answer or not answer your prayers than they. We will control your destiny and watch over you. Not gods or angels. Not the dead. Us. Men and women. Adults with tangled webs and hidden agendas. Former children.

We will allow you your needs but deny you your wants. We will see to it that any requirements for long-term happiness are kept just out of reach. If by some mistake you experience a sensation that resembles happiness, then by all means, embrace it for all it is worth. Make the most of it because we will not let it last.

Again, I’m sorry. It’s true what they say. Life’s not fair, especially for you. The only condition I can offer is that the things you will be making amid all the loneliness and suffering will by far outlast your despair and our cruelty. Our torture is temporary, your work is forever. With this in mind, we all win in the long run.

So on behalf of everyone that you will ever meet, I apologize in advance for every heartache we will cause. You’re in for a rough time, kid. Consider yourself warned.



—A letter I wrote to Vincent when he was seven

—From the book Torture the Artist by Joey Goebel; Copyright (c) 2004.  Reprinted with permission from MacAdam/Cage.


My next book.

No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now. Time hypnotizes. When you’re nine, you think you’ve always been nine years old and will always be. When you’re thirty, it seems you’ve always been balanced there on that bright rim of middle life. And then when you turn seventy, you are always and forever seventy. You’re in the present, you’re trapped in a young now or an old now, but there is no other now to be seen.

— Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

I was happy but “happy” is an adult word. You don’t have to ask a child about happiness, you see it. They are or they are not. Adults talk about being happy because largely they are not. Talking about it is the same as trying to catch the wind. Much easier to let it blow all over you. This is where I disagree with the philosophers. They talk about passionate things but there is no passion in them. Never talk happiness with a philosopher.

Jeanette Winterson

When we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on—series polygamy—until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.

Tom Robbins

Everything he saw became a symbol of his own existence, from a rabbit caught in headlights to raindrops racing down a window-pane. Perhaps it was a sign that he was going to be poet or a philosopher: the kind of person who, when he stood on the sea-shore, didn’t see waves breaking on a beach, but saw the surge of human will or the rhythms of copulation, who didn’t hear the sound of the tide but heard the eroding roar of time and the last mourning sigh of humanity fizzing into nothingness. But perhaps it was a sign, he also thought, that he was turning into a pretentious wanker.

The Liar by Stephen Fry

No bullshit. But I never leave the house without a mix for anything: Falling in love. Witnessing a death. Disappointment. Impatience. Traffic. I carry a mix for any human condition. Anything really good or bad that happens to me, and my way to not overreact—like, to distance my emotions— is to locate the exact perfect soundtrack for that moment.

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

They want to ban “Running with Scissors” from school»


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And then it hits me. Regardless of what era I’m in right now, or how I’m supposed to fulfill my so-called destiny, I refuse to make my destiny a lifetime of nights in the arms of yet another man I don’t care about but want to care about because the alternative is being alone, or even worse, a man I care about even though I know he can never give me what I really want. I’m tired of settling for two strange bodies fumbling with buttons and zippers and each other to reach the momentary high of sexual release only to have that replaced by the inevitable abyss I fall into afterward. I will not settle for that kind of destiny. Not here. Not anywhere.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
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